Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Je nes sais quois? idk

The trouble with the French is all their damn silent consonants.

This goes waaaaay beyond "gnarly" and "knight." Their silent consonants will be the end of me!

I feel like before we flit off to Paris for a few days, that we should be prepared to at least attempt to utter a few conversational phrases in French. I took four years of Spanish in high school plus a summer of intensive translation Spanish in grad school -- you'd think I could at least hop on board another romance language, oui?


My shameful secret is that I also took an intensive 6-week course translation course in French another summer in grad school and my brain retained exactly 2% of what we learned. In my defense, we did not have to speak French, we just had to read French and translate it into English. Which means we didn't learn any pronunciation. As long as I could get the gist of the idea and determine the correct tense, I could manage a rough translation. I did ok in the class -- I got an A for the first three weeks and an A- for the second half, but (again, feeling defensive), the A- was a total crock because the second half of the class was taught by a French grad student instead of a professor and her English was not good enough for her to accurately grade our translations. For example, when I was translating the first paragraph of a Balzac novel, I referred to the woman as "an old maid." She took off points and scribbled "spinster" in the margins. Um... sorry, but as far as I'm concerned, those are the same freaking thing. You could make an argument about one being more pejorative than the other, but I truly felt that I was capturing the larger sense of the passage. French grad student did not agree, A- on the final, A- in part II of the class.

And so goes my complex relationship with the French language.

French pronunciation tips I have received: when a word ends in consonants you should not pronounce them but instead sort of exhale and grunt through your nose. Also, if your face looks like you are disgusted or at least moderately disdainful, you are more likely to pronounce words correctly.

(No wonder we call them Freedom fries!)

D took French in high school. When I quizzed him on what he remembed, he said "Je m'apelle Jacques" (pronounced "Jock") and then "le aeroport?". I am sure that will be exceedingly helpful, should I want to tell someone my name is Airport.

So we are basically hopeless. I have put in a request for a "One Day French!" cd from the public library and we'll see how that goes. The problem is that I am a visual learner -- I remember words better if I see them in print. However, seeing French words does not tell me how to say French words. It is a Catch 22. And I just want a few conversational phrases!

If all else fails, I will try to look pleasant and say: "Excusez moi, anglais sil vous plait?"

1 comment:

  1. when do you leave? i have an awesome french book that i bought, just to have, that i think you would be able to use and it has a website to go with it that you can hear them say the words! call me.